#aww2019 · 2019 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · dual time frame · historical fiction · new release

New Release Book Review: Heart of the Cross by Emily Madden

Title: Heart of the Crossheart of the cross small

Author: Emily Madden

Published: August 19th 2019

Publisher: Mira – AU

Pages: 400

Genres:  Fiction, Contemporary/Historical

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 5 stars

From Ireland to Kings Cross, a legacy of loss and hope echoes across the generations …

Tinahely, Ireland, 1959 Rosie Hart is content leaving her home behind to follow her new husband to Australia. But she soon discovers there is no room for her or their young son in the life he has built in vibrant Kings Cross. As their marriage crumbles, Rosie will need to fight for the golden future her son deserves.

Rose Bay, 1984 Haunted by her past, Rosie is determined her daughter Maggie will follow the path she has set out for her. But Maggie has plans of her own, and Rosie can only pray the grief that plagues the Hart name won’t follow her.

Sydney, 2017 When her grandmother dies and leaves Brianna Hart a secret apartment in Kings Cross, Brie wonders what else Rosie was keeping from her. As Brie chases the truth of Rosie’s past she uncovers an incredible story of passion, violence, love and tragedy. Is the Hart family’s legacy of loss inescapable, or has Rosie gifted her granddaughter with a future of hope?


“If only Rosie could have known on that stifling summer day just how much the Cross would change, and in turn, how much it would change her.”

Australian author Emily Madden is an author that goes that one stretch further with each novel she releases, and her latest, Heart of the Cross, is enthralling. I was impressed by Madden’s ability to seamlessly weave all the different threads of this inter-generational family saga, as the lives of three different women, living in three separate time periods coverage. Heart of the Cross is a tribute to life in Kings Cross, both in the present day and in decades past. In the process, a touching tale of heartache, but also belonging emerges.

Heart of the Cross is an Australian family saga that encompasses a timeline that travels from 1959 Ireland, right through to Sydney in the present day. Emily Madden’s third novel traverses time and place perfectly. Heart of the Cross deftly draws in the perspectives of three women from the same family. Opening in Ireland, the reader is introduced to Rosie Hart, a young woman who has found love in a country afar. When Rosie makes the trek to Australia her son in tow, to be reunited with her husband Tom, things go downhill fast. With her marriage in tatters, Rosie must summon all the strength and ingenuity she can if she is to survive in her new home. Moving forward to the 1980s, the reader reconnects with Rosie, who is now the mother of Maggie, a steadfast and determined young woman, who has different desires to her mother’s hopes. As much as Rosie tries to keep her daughter on track, Maggie has ideas of her own, which only brings further heartache for the Hart women. Finally, in the present day, Brianna Hart arrives on her grandmother’s doorstep after time abroad. Sorting out her grandmother’s affairs after her passing leads to the discovery of a family secret, marred by loss, regret and tragedy. Brianna must piece these important remnants of the past together, in order to put her grandmother’s ghosts of the past to rest, and move on with her own life.

Heart of the Cross marks Emily Madden’s third novel and it is an ambitious one, encompassing three separate time frames and three very different female leads. Emily Madden has done an absolutely superb job of covering all three women, their contrasted lives and the settings in which they inhabit. I was very impressed by this book, it certainly surpassed all expectations I had going into this novel. I have a deep appreciation for the groundwork and dedication required to spin a novel of this nature, but Emily Madden takes this book in her stride. Heart of the Cross is an exquisite piece of Australian fiction.

Emily Madden has taken an area she is very familiar with and covered this territory extremely well in Heart of the Cross. Residing nearby to the central locale of the novel, Kings Cross, has allowed Emily Madden to transfer this first hand knowledge of her setting directly into her new book. I also know that Madden spent a great deal of time researching and conversing with key figures of the Kings Cross area to inform her narrative further, and it shows at all points of this novel. Kings Cross has a strong bearing on this novel, it is an ever present figure in this book . Although I haven’t personally set foot on this iconic area of Sydney, Madden’s prose helped me get a strong feel for this location, which was brilliant.

“The Cross was a place with many faces. There was the Cross of the day, a crowded square mile where, despite the metropolitan-like feel, everybody knew everybody. On any given Saturday, amongst those rushing about doing their shopping, there were those who would head to Fitzroy Gardens to enjoy the sparkling puffball of the El Alamein Fountain, or simply sit out in the sun and enjoy singing, sometimes operatic, by those eager to lend the Cross a bit of tone.

But as the afternoon faded and dusk approached, it was almost as if one day finished at sunset and another began as dusk turned to night. The neon lights that lit nocturnal Kings Cross were an incandescent temptress, magical and inviting.”

Each of the characters in Heart of the Cross are rendered well by Madden. The supporting cast such as Tom, Jack, Jimmy, Mary, Floss, Mike and many more, were also fleshed out well by Madden. I felt embraced by the community of Kings Cross. The locale came across as colourful, progressive and inclusive. I loved all three Hart women in their own special way, but I developed a soft spot for Rosie. I found Rosie to be appealing, brave, embracing, loyal and enterprising. In Maggie, her daughter, we have a woman full of great aspirations, with a single minded nature, but also very caring. While in Brianna, we have a young woman grappling with her identity, sense of belonging and matters of the heart. I enjoyed every moment I spent with each of these women, together and separately.

The division of the narrative into different time lines, locations and perspectives worked well to draw out the mystery of the novel. I found I was feverishly flicking the pages of this novel over to reach the next stage of this engrossing story. Over the course of the novel, many issues course through the reader, from new beginnings, immigration, homesickness, disappointments, friendships, romance, loss and tragedy. Some of the themes incorporated in this novel had a dark and serious tone, but Madden treats these difficult topics with respect. From marriage breakdown, broken trust, gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse, domestic violence, custody arrangements, infidelity and the sex trade, each is covered with a sense of dignity by the author. There are moments of hope, especially in the closing pages of this book, in terms of belonging, happiness, stability and achievements in marriage equality.

Emily Madden has astonished me yet again with this offering. Heart of the Cross is simply excellent, demonstrating that our country has a set of very talented novelists, consistently producing stories of a high calibre.

Heart of the Cross by Emily Madden was published on 19th August 2019 by Mira – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.

To learn more about the author of Heart of the Cross, Emily Madden, visit here.

*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.

Heart of the Cross is book #120 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

3 thoughts on “New Release Book Review: Heart of the Cross by Emily Madden

  1. Excellent review, Amanda! I must buy this book so I can display it next to The Lost Pearl. I find it always makes for a more interesting read when I have been to the places mentioned in the book although, come to think of it it’s also fun to read of new places I haven’t been to, a new location to explore on our travels! Can’t wait to see what Emily comes up with next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Many thanks Sue, what a lovely idea to display Emily’s books together. I have to agree with you on the setting, it is always interesting to learn about new places but I also enjoy reading about familiar places too. I can’t wait to read another from Emily, she is one of my favourite authors.


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